You may have heard of the rotator cuff, particularly in relation to rotator cuff injuries. But aside from having a vague idea, you might not know exactly what the rotator cuff is, how it functions, how it’s injured and importantly: how to strengthen it.
Firstly, some basics on the shoulder.
The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body. You can raise your arm forwards, backwards, out to the side, even around in a circle. This is because the humerus (or upper arm bone) is joined to the scapula (shoulder blade) mainly through muscles, tendons and ligaments. If there are muscle imbalances, poor posture or an external force on the shoulder joint there is a greater chance of injury due to its design of providing movement over stability.
If you are someone who uses their arms above their head often, for example a swimmer, bowler, painter or electrician, you may be more at risk of a shoulder injury. With these overhead, sometimes awkward positions and repeated movements there is more stress through the rotator cuff. Especially if your posture is not the best!
What is the Rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that work together to hold the head of the humerus in its socket while the shoulder moves and they help rotate the shoulder. These deep muscles are crucial to prevent the shoulder from dislocating. Three of the four muscles, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor, originate from the back of the shoulder blade while the other one, subscapularis, originates on the front aspect of the shoulder blade. They all attach onto the humerus.
A great exercise to strengthen the rotator cuff is external and internal shoulder rotation in sidelying as shown below. It is important to start on your side with your head and shoulders relaxed, keep your elbow in close to your body and control the movement as you lift your arm upwards from your belly.
If you are experiencing any shoulder pain, weakness or instability see your local physio to get the right exercises for you to improve your function.
Originally posted on 13 July, 2017.
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